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Facebook backtracks in privacy dispute

Latest update : 2009-02-18

Facebook has decided to backtrack on a decision to change its terms of service after users of the social network staged a cyber protest and expressed concern over the ownership of content posted on the site.

FRANCE 24's Observers reacting to Facebook's changed terms of service.


AFP - Facebook did an about-face on Wednesday and dropped a controversial change to its terms of service that triggered a barrage of protests from users of the social network.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, in a post on the company blog, said the popular networking site was withdrawing the change to its terms of use that prompted concern among users over who owns the content on Facebook.

The February 4 change to the terms -- the online agreement that users must accept to join -- included new language giving Facebook "perpetual worldwide license" to anything posted on the network.

The move sparked a backlash among users with more than 85,000 joining a Facebook group calling itself "People Against the new Terms of Service."

Zuckerberg, in his blog post, said Facebook "had received a lot of questions and comments about the changes and what they mean for people and their information.

"Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised," he said.

Facebook posted a "Terms of Use Update" on the home pages of the tens of millions of Facebook members on Wednesday explaining the decision to revert to the previous terms and invited members to share their thoughts.

Zuckerberg said the terms would be revised -- but with the input of users this time.

"More than 175 million people use Facebook," he said. "If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world.

"Our terms aren't just a document that protect our rights; it's the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world.

"Since this will be the governing document that we'll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms," Zuckerberg said.

Facebook members routinely share comments, pictures and more online and the website needs legal permission to be a platform for such exchanges.

Zuckerberg said a new group had been created -- "Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities" -- to allow users to post "questions, comments and requests."

The group had more than 55,000 members just a few hours after its creation.

Facebook also posted an apology for its handling of the issue.

"We never intended to claim ownership over people's content even though that's what it seems like to many people," the statement said. "This was a mistake and we apologize for the confusion."

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt, meanwhile, addressed the users who joined the protest group and reiterated that Facebook had never claimed ownership of the photos and other content posted on users' pages or shared with friends.

"Facebook does not, nor have we ever, claimed ownership over people's content. Your content belongs to you," he wrote on the protest page.

"Selling user information for profit or using it to advertise Facebook in some way was never part of our original intent," he said.

"Assurances aren't enough, though, and we plan to codify this in our revised terms through simple language that defines Facebook's rights much more specifically."

Date created : 2009-02-18